Vastonea swoops to conquer

Vastonea gave veteran trainer Kevin Prendergast his sixth win in the race when sweeping through late to land the featured Topaz Mile Handicap at Galway last night.

Vastonea swoops to conquer

Prendergast first took out a licence in 1963, won this contest initially as far back as ’72 with Ryker and is a man who has more than stood the test of time.

The grey son of Verglas was partnered by 7lbs claimer, Gary Halpin, who has been with Prendergast for four years and was enjoying his biggest success.

Vastonea had plenty to do with two furlongs to run, but fairly powered home to grab the front-running Piro Wango.

“This has been a very lucky race for us”, said Prendergast. “It is great to be here and great to win here. That old lad loves to run around this track.”

Plans for Vastonea? “Maybe this time next year”, smiled Prendergast. The six-year-old has an excellent record in the race, he won it in 2012 and was third last year.

Two years ago Prendergast’s daughter, Natasha, got married in Melbourne. To celebrate there is a reception for the happy couple in Kildare today. “This will help to pay some of the fee”, quipped the sprightly 82-year-old. Vastonea, of course, carried the colours of his wife, Lesley.

Aidan O’Brien’s Shield, owned by J P McManus, turned what looked destined to be ignominious defeat into glorious victory when taking the Topaz Novice Hurdle.

Jumping two out, the winner was only sixth of seven, but in a matter of strides the situation changed completely.

Robbie Power was doing the driving and showed real initiative to flash Shield through on the inside approaching the last.

It made all the difference, with Shield landing in front and finding enough on the flat to beat Queen Alphabet by a length.

“I’m delighted with that, Robbie gave him a great ride”, said O’Brien. “J P And Frank (Berry) picked out this race, I just went with the flow.”

McManus completed a double when his well-backed Jacksonslady won the Latin Quarter Chase, under an inspired Barry Geraghty drive.

It was a fine training performance on the part of Philip Dempsey, considering the mare was having a first outing since March.

She appeared to have it all to do when a moderate third approaching the home turn, but Geraghty forced her forward and she soon got into contention, led and then held the late thrust of Cailin Annamh by a head.

“She’s tough and loves a battle”, reported Dempsey. “Barry was brilliant, he knows her well. I knew she was in good form.”

It was a first festival success for Dempsey and the first time he has trained a winner for McManus.

Dermot Weld’s newcomer, Chinese Light, was all the rage in the market for the Topaz EBF Fillies Maiden and, for most of the journey, the wagers seemed reasonably safe.

But she found it hard work from the furlong pole and was passed first by Tamadhor and then by eventual winner, David Wachman’s fast finishing Legatissimo.

Said Wachman: “We thought she would run a good race at Leopardstown (sixth of seven). We rode her forward and it didn’t suit. We decided to ride her from behind tonight and see what happened.”

Weld was soon among the winners, however, when Hidden Universe landed the gamble of the night in the Handicap.

He was put in at 6-1 in the morning, but was taken through the day and left the gate as the 9-4 favourite.

Pat Smullen gave him the full treatment, driving for home off the last bend and then keeping his charge going to beat Foot Soldier by half a length.

Said Weld, who celebrated his 66th birthday yesterday: “That was an excellent ride by Pat. He is a horse who has had a lot of leg problems and is difficult to keep sound. My only concern was the ground, he is very effective on soft. He is in later in the week over hurdles, but I don’t think will run. The Cesarewitch, or something like that, will be the plan.”

Weld and Smullen completed a double when long odds-on Antique Platinum took the concluding EBF Maiden.

She had to be fairly rousted along in the straight by Smullen, however, before finally going clear in the closing stages. “She ran very green when in front”, said Weld.

Antique Platinum was inclined to hang in towards her rivals in the closing stages and a stewards’ inquiry was inevitable. Equally inevitable was that there was no alteration to the placings.

The layers got a screamer in the Caulfield Industrial Athlone Handicap, victory going to the 25-1 outsider, Surreal.

The daughter of Shamardal responded generously to Gary’s Carroll’s urgings to give Carlow trainer, Jane Foley, a first winner at the festival, with her first runner.

* The attendance was 19,156, as against 18,248 last year.

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